Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Saturn’s moon Titan and Love and Intrigue Under the Seven Moves of Kordea

Helena Puumala’s SF Romance series features a planet, Kordea, with seven moons.  This rather unusual setting gives me the opportunity to talk about some of the remarkable moons in our solar system, as I test different moons for the cover of book 2 of the series.  This blog is about Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, notable for its atmosphere and hydrocarbon “water cycle” – i.e. evaporation, precipitation, liquid bodies, etc., with methane on Titan taking the place of water on earth.

Here are a few facts about Titan, courtesy of Wiki:

  • It's the second biggest moon in the solar system (about 2575 km radius, slightly smaller than the Jovian moon Ganymede).  It is about 50% larger than our moon.
  • It was discovered in 1655 by Huygens, the first moon of Saturn discovered and the fifth moon in all (excepting our own), after the four big Jovian moons.
  • It is primarily made of ice and rock, apparently about half and half, based on its overall density.  It also has a dense atmosphere, which made telescope observations of the surface difficult.
  • The Cassini-Huygens space probe recently visited the system (2004) and established the fact that Titan has a methane cycle, similar to Earth’s water cycle.  Naturally, the methane cycle is at a much lower temperature than the Earth’s water cycle.
  • The Huygens probe actually sent back images from the surface, which is awesome when you think about it.
  • Titan is orbitally locked with Saturn, much like our moon is with Earth.  Thus, it always shows one side to the planet.
  • There appears to be a subsurface ocean, based on some Cassini observations. It may be water and ammonia, thus liquid at lower temperatures than on Earth.  The heat would probably be from the deep interior of the moon, rather than tidal heating as is the case with Jovian moons.
  • The atmosphere is mostly nitrogen (98.4%), and somewhat denser than Earth’s atmosphere (1.45 atmospheres pressure).  The remainder is methane and some trace hydrocarbons.  This produces smog of the characteristic orange colour.  The methane appears to be continuously generated from the interior.
  • It’s a bit on the cool side on the surface, about -180 Celsius, compared to Earth’s balmy average of about +15 degrees.
  • The surface appears to be fairly young.  The methane cycle sculpts it, the way the water cycle does on Earth, with lakes, river channels and the like.  There may also be volcanism, though spewing watery ice rather than magma.
  • There appears to be some mountain ranges, though not nearly as long or as high as on the Earth.  There are few craters, a result of a thick protective atmosphere and a geologically active surface.
  • There are highly speculative theories that life could exist on Titan, with methane or ethane acting as a solvent, in place of water for Earth life.  Such organisms might breathe hydrogen rather than oxygen, and metabolize acetylene rather than glucose, exhaling methane rather than CO2.  Obviously, these are pretty far-out ideas, but you never know.

Here's a picture of Titan, taken by the Cassini probe in 2005.

 Here's the surface, taken by the Huygens lander.



Now, here’s a moon-based pitch for Helena Pummala’s latest SF Romance series, The Witches’ Stones:

Helena Puumala's SF Romance series features the planet Kordea, home to a race of beautiful and powerful psychic aliens, known as the Witches of Kordea.  The planet has seven moons, an extraordinary arrangement for a terrestrial sized planet in its star's habitable zone, as is noted in Book 1, which you can get from the link below:    :).


In fact, the moons of Kordea become a central element in Book 2, soon to come out.  The cover below actually borrows the moon Titan, one of the moons of Jupiter.  I will by testing out different moons for the cover of the Witches' Stones Book 2, so, as noted above, this gives me the opportunity to do a mini-tour of some of the major moons of our solar system.  Moons, including our own, are fascinating.  A terrestrial planet with seven moons would be cool (though it would probably be a very unstable arrangement).

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